President Putin Signs Russian ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Into Law

Moscow, Russia (GVO) – President Vladimir Putin has signed into law the “right to be forgotten” legislation that makes it possible for individuals to force Internet search engines to delete links to certain kinds of information about them.

According to the law, content links to which should be removed upon a user’s request includes false information about the individual’s life, or information that has “become outdated due to later events or actions of the individual.”

The law remains quite vague about the criteria for this kind of information, but The RuNet reports that those filing complaints will have to prove the information has become “outdated”: for instance, a civil servant can ask to remove links about their work only if they no longer hold the post in question and can provide documents proving they left the state service.

The law does not apply to information about criminal activity, in cases where the statute of limitations has not expired.

The law stipulates that search engines must review removal requests over the course of 10 days. Failing to respond to a user’s takedown request can lead to court proceedings and, if the court finds that a search engine refused a legitimate request, to fines.

The “right to be forgotten” law, which comes into force on January 1, 2016, has attracted a fair amount of criticism from Russia’s Internet industry, with Yandex, Russia’s biggest search engine, claiming that the law violates Russians’ constitutional right to access to information.

Putin and censorship. Image Source: Democracy Chronicles, Flickr, Creative Commons

Putin and censorship.
Image Source: Democracy Chronicles, Flickr, Creative Commons

Curiously, on July 14, the same day he signed the “right to be forgotten” law, Vladimir Putin came out in favor of “minimal restrictions” of the Internet. Speaking at a youth IT-forum in the “Territory of Meanings” summer camp in Russia, he said any laws regulating the Internet should be introduced “only to protect public interests as a whole,” and stressed that the Kremlin was not planning to introduce “any other restrictions” apart from the ones already in place. At the same time, Putin said he sees “anarchy and complete anonymity” as the biggest threats posed by the Internet.